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Memphis 901 FC win big in home finale, a step closer to playoff game at AutoZone Park

The goal for Memphis 901 FC over the past several weeks has been clear — secure the fourth seed in the Eastern conference and bring a playoff game to AutoZone Park for the second straight year.

There was a chance, after going up big against El Paso Locomotive, to clinch the spot in their final regular season home game in front of an announced attendance of 3,537. Louisville City has been the challenger in the race. They’ve been a step behind 901 due to losing the head-to-head matchup. The two-time champions of the league were up against the already eliminated Hartford Athletic, staying just within reach of Memphis with a draw.

A full season will be necessary to separate the two with Memphis needing a point to stay in front for good. Louisville heads to Tampa Bay while Memphis will travel west to take on New Mexico United, a team still in the playoff hunt.

“It will be difficult,” head coach Stephen Glass said. “They’ll be trying to win in front of probably 10,000 people. That sets us up good for the playoffs going into a hostile environment trying to win.”

A “ruthless” mindset

Although Memphis has held the advantage against Louisville for some time, they still needed to take care of their own business against El Paso.

The Locomotive, who are in the same situation as New Mexico, came into the match using a fluid back three. They often sent two midfielders to help in defense, making life difficult for Memphis. With little room to navigate inside the penalty box, 901 FC used long shots to challenge the goalkeeper — eventually paying off at the half-hour mark. Akeem Ward sent a strike on-target from just inside the eighteen, the ball deflecting off an El Paso defender and into the back of the net.

At the brink of halftime, Memphis was able to add on to their lead with a corner kick. Aaron Molloy picked out an unmarked Lucas Turci who had no trouble scoring his second goal of the year.

El Paso did not come out of the locker room looking like a team ready to respond. A string of defensive mistakes and careless turnovers gave Memphis all the opportunities they needed. Luiz Fernando was able to curl the ball past the goalkeeper from a Rodrigo da Costa assist. Laurent Kissiedou capitalized on a defender (and goalkeeper) on the ground, leaving an easy finish to put the game away.

“I think ruthless is probably the word,” Glass said. “We carried a threat every time we went forward which was pleasant to see.”

Memphis has scored 4+ goals in a match five times this year, with three coming in the last month.

A late season debut

In late September, Memphis 901 FC announced the acquisition of goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, a transfer from Hartford Athletic. The former Mexican international made his debut with the club, earning a clean sheet. Drew Romig has been the only goalkeeper used since the departure of Bill Hamid.

“We feel like the competition is valuable throughout the team. There’s no reason the goalkeeper position should be any different,” Glass said.

Sanchez did not have to do much in the match, a credit to the locked-in defensive unit. There was a moment early on where he got a hand onto a ball into the box, preventing a tap-in.

“I think it gave us an opportunity to put all the options on the table for us next week and then into the playoffs,” Glass said. “So, it’s tough decisions for the coaching staff but we’re here to make tough decisions and we’re here to win.”

Photo Credit: D’Angelo Connell Photography

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